Workplace abuse is theft

"Someone in your office walks out every day with a laptop under his coat. He fences them down the street and keeps the money. After he's discovered, how long should he keep his job? What if he's a really hard worker? Perhaps you give him a warning, but when he's discovered stealing again a week from now, then what? Bullying costs far more than laptop theft does," says Marketing Guru Seth Godin in his blog post "Bullying is theft."

Bullying is "intentionally using power to cause physical or emotional distress with the purpose of dominating the other person," says Godin. "The bully works to marginalize people. In an organizational setting, the bully chooses not to engage in conversation or discussion or to use legitimate authority or suasion and depends instead on pressure in the moment to demean and disrespect someone else — by undermining not just their ideas but their very presence and legitimacy."

Most bullies aren't sociopaths, immune to correction. They are...

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How to know if you might have PTSD after workplace abuse

Workplace abuse can often lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the Mayo Clinic, "symptoms may start within three months of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships."

PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types:

Intrusive memories

Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
  • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
  • Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event

Avoidance

Symptoms of avoidance may include:

  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
  • Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind you of the traumatic event

Negative changes in thinking and mood

Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may...

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Why going to HR generally doesn't help targets of workplace abuse

Targets of workplace abuse have told me that when they reported their experiences to Human Resources, the workplace abuse generally got worse. Advocates said:

HR is there to protect a company's legal interests, not the worker. As soon as a you go to HR [about workplace abuse], you can expect things to get worse because you have just given them notice they need to get their ducks in a row and get rid of you so you can't document anymore. It's better to quietly go to an employment lawyer who will tell you if you have a case, tell you how to document, and act as your advocate when you have a viable case.

HR gets their paycheck from the company, not you. They are not your advocate.

Going to Human Resources can be as effective as doing nothing, if not worse.

It is important to note that many HR professionals are targets of workplace abuse themselves.

What do you do instead? Advocates most commonly reported that leaving the organization was the most effective (and often the...

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Signs your toxic boss is subtly destroying your life

Work culture is top-down. So if those at the top believe passive-aggressive behaviors will help weed out bad employees, then you're at the mercy of abusive bosses who master the art of subtle abuse. And subtle abuse gets rewarded. "Research by the University of Buffalo School of Management finds that ... those who engage in harassment typically receive excellent reviews from their own supervisors and are exceptional at climbing the corporate ladder," says Glynis Sweeny in her Alternet article "8 traits of toxic managers."

The problem is that at best, you're left feeling shamed, isolated, drained, and fearful of losing your job. At worst, your abusive boss ruins your career, makes you question your value at work, and takes a toll on your personal life and health, leaving you with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Sweeny points to these eight cues that you have an abusive boss:

1. They don’t give constructive feedback. Good managers want you to...

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What to do — and not do — if you're abused at work

What do those who've experienced workplace abuse recommend to those still in it? Get out. Nothing you can do will stop the abuse.
 
What to avoid
Targets who stood up to workplace abuse, even with plenty of documentation, reported outcomes they said "weren't worth it":
  • Thousands of dollars in legal fees
  • Mental and emotional exhaustion
  • Health problems: sleeplessness, anxiety, and chest pains
  • Bad effects on family and other personal relationships
What to do
Former targets recommended making your well-being the number one priority:
  • Take medical leave
  • See a therapist
Ultimately, remember it's not you who is in the wrong.
 
 
 
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How businesses lose when they keep a bully on payroll

Those who've been abused at work say that abusers didn't just harm their health and personal relationships. Abusers actually harmed their organizations. Here's how:
  • Employees lose trust in employers who protect abusers. When they lose trust, their morale and productivity go down.
  • Productivity also decreases when great employees focus on fear of more abuse.
  • Employees lose money from absenteeism and turnover (not the kind that results from employers no longer needing certain skills), which costs organization big bucks in training.
  • Since great employees leave their organizations when abused, companies lose employees who would have helped build a better company.

When costs go up for organizations, taxpayers lose, too. Health care costs get externalized, costs that the employer would have been responsible for. 

No one wins when managers abuse employees.

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Yet another study links workplace abuse to suicides. When is enough enough?

I reported earlier that a Norwegian study revealed that abused targets are twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts than those who were never abused. Pioneer Heinz Leymann estimated that 10 percent of those bullied take their lives.

Researchers defined bullying as harassment, badgering, and freezing out that generally:

  • Occurred repeatedly over a period of time.
  • Involved two parties in which one had a higher ranking than the other.

It happens so often that there’s now a term for it. “Bullycide” happens when the cause of suicide is attributable to the victim having been bullied.

Now researchers in Australia report similar findings. Australian researchers determined that workplace bullying or harassment was associated with 1.54 greater odds of suicide ideation.


How workplace abuse can lead any of us to suicide (“bullycide”)

Findings show that none of us have a thick enough skin to be exempt from the workplace...

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How to spot an abuser early on

Afraid you won't be able to detect an abuser on your next job interview? In his book Bully in Sight: How to Predict, Resist, Challenge, and Combat Workplace Bullying: Overcoming the Silence and Denial by which Abuse Thrives, Tim Field outlines these bully characteristics:

  • Cavalier attitude
  • Delegation and dumping
  • Differing values
  • Divided loyalty
  • Duplicity
  • Envy
  • Evasiveness
  • Failure mentality
  • Fait accompli
  • Favoritism
  • Focus on the victim
  • Frequent moves
  • Humorlessness
  • Inability to cope with failure
  • Inability to plan ahead
  • Inconsistency
  • Indecision
  • Ingratitude
  • Insatiability
  • Insensitivity
  • Insincerity
  • Interference
  • Imposition
  • Jekyll and Hyde persona
  • Know-it-all attitude
  • Lack of competence
  • Lack of contingency planning
  • Lack of foresight
  • Misrepresentation
  • Mood swings
  • Need to assert authority
  • Negative language
  • Opportunism
  • Plagiarism
  • Poor judgment
  • Poor listening skills
  • Resoluteness
  • Rigidity
  • Self-importance
  • Selfishness
  • Shifting goalposts
  • Short-term thinking
  • Short-term memory
  • Spinelessness
  • Steadfast...
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Unrealistic responses to targets of workplace abuse

We've all read comments on online workplace abuse articles telling targets to just get a tough skin or a new job — that life is just hard, and abuse on the job is just another problem that we have to deal with.

Experts compare workplace abuse with domestic violence. In the recent past, it was perfectly legal for a husband to beat his wife. Imagine telling a wife to "just leave" or to "toughen up" as her self-esteem worsens but yet she needs to rebuild her life. Doesn't sound simple, does it?

A target of workplace abuse faces a similar problem. As abusers encourage targets who care about their work and organizations to question their abilities, targets feel beaten down and lose confidence to find another job. Even if they do have the strength to find another job, they generally need months to find other work — and endure more abuse during those months. Only those with safety nets (enough savings to cover months of living expenses, a second income through a side hustle or...

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The singlemost important thing to remember in trying to end workplace abuse

Those of us who experienced workplace abuse firsthand remember a specific period of time: the window of time after the abuse pattern started when we felt most isolated and before we knew the term "workplace abuse."

Think about that time for a moment.

Remember when you discovered the term. You may have searched online for help and stumbled into the term. You may have read what workplace abuse is and what its effects are on your health. You may even remember exactly where you were when you found the term.

You suddenly felt less alone. You suddenly felt as though you weren't crazy, you weren't imagining what was happening to you, and you were and should have been just as shocked by your experience as your friends and family when you described it to them.

There are thousands of people out there just like you who feel isolated today — people who have no idea that what's happening to them at work isn't their fault. These are the people who would join our base of supporters and...

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